A little while ago I got the heads up on a small startup iPhone development studio based just up the road from me, in Liverpool (UK). Consisting of a team of both iPhone developers and 3D designers, Kisky Media have come up with a unique and interesting concept. Debuting this December, Little World Gifts will become a virtual 'Gifting' system for iPhone (and iPod touch) which will allow you to pick out, buy and send exclusive rich 3D interactive gifts to a special someone. The app will work off in-app purchasing, and each gift received or sent will be downloaded straight into the app itself.
Sending an gift to someone else's iPhone is as easy as tapping the item, setting a delivery time, and hitting 'Done'. Received a gift from someone else? You can store and organise your gifts too, on your own virtual shelve. Talking to the startup, the idea behind Little World Gifts is basically to let people experience 'gifts' in a more interactive and visually pleasing way, beating the static 2D object approach.
Over the weekend I got the chance to speak to Jonathan Deamer, community and communications manager at Kisky Media exclusively about the new service, to ask just what was Little World Gifts, how he and the team at Kisky Media thinks this concept might affect the App Store and its users in the future, and a little more about Kisky Media in general. Enjoy!
Can you explain what Little World Gifts is, and a little bit about how it'll work, for us?
We're billing Little World Gifts as "a boutique store full of festive curios and trinkets to surprise, delight and amuse during the festive season". Essentially it's a shop in your iPhone where you can buy 3D, interactive digital gifts, and send them to your friends iPhones, where they can unwrap and play with their gift. We love existing virtual gifts, but mobile gives us a chance to do even more with them, and iPhone enhances those opportunities even further. So we don't sell "virtual gifts" - we sell "digital gifts", with all the charm and personality of a "real world" gift you'd want to send or receive yourself. They just happen to be on your iPhone!
It sounds like a cool concept, but how did you come to think of such an idea? What do you hope Little World Gifts will bring to the App Store and it's users?
The initial idea came to our developer Paul Stringer at the MacWorld conference last year. When Apple first announced that the then-forthcoming iPhone OS 3.0 would allow for push notifications, he immediately thought that loads of people would create free iPhone-to-iPhone SMS apps. But then it occurred to him push notifications would be great for sending digital gifts in real time - rather than not knowing you've received a gift until next time you log in to a social network, it's delivered to you there and then. Add to that the ability to sell content via in-app purchases, plus the brainwave of having gorgeous 3D gifts with real value, and it all just made sense.
We're hoping to become *the* App Store destination for iPhone gifts. There are of course a number of web-based services that do vaguely similar things, but no-one's really got it right yet for mobile. And since the sentiment and feeling behind gift-giving is something really important, we want to put some of that sentiment into the App Store.
Interesting! So, How many of you are over there in Liverpool? Is this a team or studio creation, or are you an indie dev? How long have you been working on this project (Little World Gifts)?
We're a completely independent startup, with a team of 5 that've been working on Little World Gifts since June this year: iPhone developers, 3D designers and mobile experts. Its been a really fun few months so far, and we try to practice what we preach in terms of gifts - we've got toys and trinkets all over the office (plus some nice vintage Apple gear!) that have all given us a some inspiration for different parts of what we're doing.
I see, cool. Moving back to the App Store itself; Where do you personally see the App Store being in 5-10 years? Do you think 3D experiences are the way forward on these touch-based devices? Will we see more and more quality applications, do you think? Something more of an 'experience' rather than general 'utilities' and such?
The future of the App Store is a really interesting question, and one that no-one really knows the answer to. As a side project to Little World Gifts, we were recently commissioned to write a report into "winning iPhone strategies" for developers. We spoke to lots of people who have produced successful apps, and one thing that came out of that was that there's been so much change in the 16 or so months since the App Store's launched that it's almost futile to try and make predictions! A key fact is that so much of what goes on in the App Store market is heavily effected by decisions by Apple, for better or worse - they could introduce something tomorrow that completely changes the landscape.
That said, we've already seen a move from the top lists being dominated by small, independent developers to lot more of the big players getting involved, like EA and the Rock Band franchise, so it could very well continue down that path. This is similar to what's happened with blogging - it was originally a very independent medium, but now that large media companies have realised there's an audience (and money!) there, most of the top blogs are owned by businesses, not hobbyists.
In terms of 3D, popularity isn't necessarily dependent on a certain type of graphics, so I wouldn't necessarily say that 3D is "the future of the iPhone". But what does make an app popular is making the best use of the platform its on and the iPhone's hardware - be that the touch screen, the accelerometer or location-awareness. So hopefully we'll see more native apps that don't simply reproduce a web experience but do something really unique to mobile - and that's something we're really keen to do with Little World Gifts.
I recently read you're going to donate 20% of profits from each gift sold in the Little World Gifts app to sustainability initiatives. Can you tell us a little more about that?
Of course - apart from the fact that we all think sustainability is something any business should incorporate into its activities, it seems especially relevant to our business. Early on when we were developing Little World Gifts a key concept we kept coming back to was "away from plastic" - getting away from some of the waste that comes with sending presents across the world. This is something we're going to be incorporating into the app more and more, especially as we introduced more location-based elements, we want to work with sustainability initiatives in those local areas, and we're getting together a crack team of advisers to help us with this at the moment.
Anything in development after Little World Gifts? Anything you can sneakily let us in on?
Well, there are plenty of other times of year that you might want to send gifts other than Christmas, let's just put it like that..! :-)
Thanks for your time in talking to us today, Jonathan.
My pleasure, Arron!